While our recent articles gear towards the teams and more importantly, the players, it’s time we heard from the voices behind the mic, our very own broadcast crew. I asked Cody @Tougie24 Tougas, Paul @Cyn Anderson, and Nick @f5penguin DiMeo their thoughts on the recent growth of NHLGamer, the production level, and the 6v6 community in general. All 3 of these gentlemen can be found across our streams and broadcasts, and have made appearances in all levels of play, whether it be ECL, NACL, or the eSHL.
<< I think they're one of the leaders of innovation when it comes to bringing forth a level of quality in the content and in the gamesmanship, and you see that especially with the ECL and now the NACL breaking through. I only see big things in the future for them. >>
Question: We’re entering the 10th season of the ECL, and the second season (of hopefully many) of the NACL. Just recently it was announced that there were a total of 196 teams signed up, a record-setting 15 000€ prize pool for ECL season 10, and new esports organizations such as JYP Jyvaskyla, SJ Gaming, hREDS, and KOVA Esports signing rosters for the upcoming campaign. What’s it been like to watch the site grow at such a rapid pace?
@f5penguin: It's interesting to see the site grow at this pace that you mentioned. It's fun to watch the surge happen, especially with everything going on in the world currently. People are looking for an outlet and they're looking for a place to play and do something that is closest to sports while they are confined. I'm of the opinion that esports IS a sport and I've said that for a while, being a new sports and new media advocate. However, seeing a record 15,000€ prize pool, seeing actual hockey teams take on an esports team, and signing a roster for the partnership with the Swedish SHL (eSHL). These are huge, monumental things and I couldn't be more thrilled that NHLGamer is the one responsible for doing some of these things. I think they're one of the leaders of innovation when it comes to bringing forth a level of quality in the content and in the gamesmanship, and you see that especially with the ECL and now the NACL breaking through. I only see big things in the future for them.
@Tougie24: It's been amazing. Nearly a year ago I was able to have a conversation with @Kenu (owner and founder of NHLGamer.com) while we were both in Vancouver over potentially doing commentary for NHLGamer. It's something I wanted to get into, seeing as Youtube and Twitch isn't exactly the end goal I have in mind. I'd also been having conversations with Cyn around the same time over our mutual interest in trying to branch out into commentary. He's been someone I've considered a friend for nearly as long as anyone in the Youtube community, and we'd decided pretty early on into those conversations that we were going to be a package deal.
After talking with Kenu, I knew that NHLGamer was who I wanted to be affiliated with. The ambition, the vision, of where the competitive NHL scene could be lined up directly with myself and Cyn's. And just in the past year alone, the thought of "backing a winning horse" has come to mind. I already view that decision as a successful one. In the time since, we had our trial NACL run, which has turned into what this series has been, which I'd argue has been successful in turning heads in terms of what type of platform this league is looking to provide. Overseas, the ability to call games not just for the NACL but the eSHL was an honor.
I get to see the same drive and ambition that won me over in the first place on display. The team we have all want the same thing. To help improve the footing of NHL esports. And just over this past year alone? No doubt in my mind that's been accomplished. And I can't wait to continue to see where it goes.
<< While myself and Tougie may be the ones on screen being the proverbial “faces” of each broadcast, what goes on behind the curtains during and days before is just as if not more important than what we bring. It’s really great to see others appreciating the hard work that goes into that side of production because we know first hand just how vital it is to our success. >>
Question: A common comment when talking about NHLGamer, has been the level of production in the broadcasting during the featured games. While the ECL has been acclimated to this for a few seasons, the introduction of the NACL has brought in numerous positive comments about the level of detail to make the broadcast the best it can be. These things are also mentioned talking about the casting crew and the level of professionalism yourself and others bring to the table. How do these comments contribute to your current and future broadcasts?
@Cyn: That sort of positive reinforcement is quite inspiring to hear. I think we feed off of viewer feedback as a collective group. We all hold ourselves to the highest of standards and anything less than greatness leaves us feeling unfulfilled. It is one of the best rewards of this job to hear that your effort and passion is being appreciated, and that goes for internal feedback as well. We appreciate and value all those involved so much and it’s clear to us that everyone plays a huge part in making each broadcast a success. It all needs to click to look as good as it can. And while myself and Tougie may be the ones on screen being the proverbial “faces” of each broadcast, what goes on behind the curtains during and days before is just as if not more important than what we bring. It’s really great to see others appreciating the hard work that goes into that side of production because we know first hand just how vital it is to our success.
@f5penguin: These comments to me I love. You may not know, but I have been broadcasting for 10 years in new media, so strictly online streaming, podcasting, etc. I've been a tech journalist for a long time, and I've been calling esports games for three or four years for other leagues as well. So when I see everybody love what we do, part of me is elated here that definitely without question. I love that people are enjoying the product that we're giving them, but also, part of me knows that this is what we could do. This is what happens when you bring talented people together and give them the ability to create. When you find the talent, you should work insanely hard to grow it, keep it maintained, do everything you can to give them a chance to shine. And I think NHLGamer does a fantastic job that I'm able to have free reign. I'm not told what to say, I feel like I'm not given a very finite script, and I'm able to create freely. Working alongside Drew Goldfarb has been a blessing, I'm learning so much from him and that's amazing.
If you haven't seen an ECL broadcast before, here's the latest one from tonight:
Question: With the cancelling of numerous sporting events across the world, we’ve seen professional sports teams and leagues shift towards simulating their respective sports to give their fans something to watch during this period of uncertainty. While it’s massive progress to have these organizations acknowledging the presence of esports, especially sports games like NHL 20, can you give your best sales pitch on what they are missing simulating games with the AI, rather than contributing to the 6v6 EASHL community?
@Cyn: They are missing perhaps the most important element of entering an online market; timing. I believe they are still sort of trivializing esports, especially NHL which is just beginning to blossom, and haven't done a whole lot of market research on esports and their growth patterns. Otherwise, every single professional team would be scrambling to create their own division devoted solely to esports. The signs are everywhere. Gamers being signed to contracts with streaming platforms, countless tournaments being held both online and on LAN, and legitimate successful and thriving business models devoted to esports. I guess my pitch would be this: You have in front of you a unique opportunity to evolve with the times and cast yourself into an historical undertaking. If you don't get in on the action now, someone else will. Refusing to take the leap with the information we have on hand makes you a dinosaur. This is quite literally a can't miss investment opportunity.
@Tougie24: First, from a general standpoint. It's probably somewhat cliché to say, but hockey is a team sport. The individual game is fine, it can be entertaining. From an advertising stand point, it's probably easier to focus on an individual and their personality. But it's simply mind boggling to me that we haven't seen more professional teams step up to support the team game over the individual. That's for both NHL and FIFA for that matter.
Now in terms of teams currently presenting AI gameplay? It's a bit more understandable with how unexpected of a situation we're all living in happens to be. But perhaps this look towards the video game side of things for content opens some eyes to the product that's already there, and the opportunities that are there for the taking.
<< It doesn't matter what your role is, no matter how big or how small your contribution, everyone needs to work together to push this thing forward. >>
Question: NHL 20 has seen an explosion of new tournaments, and overall impressive progress to the esports scene, whether it be more teams stepping into 1v1 tournaments, and more relevant to the 6v6 scene; the Caps Gaming Showcase in North America, and the eSHL featured in Europe. These 2 leagues not only broke down barriers in the community, brought new sponsorship opportunities, more legitimacy to the NHL esports community, but most importantly, more viewers and demographics to the community itself. What do you think are the next steps for the NHL community as a whole, but also the 6v6 community in terms of building off the growth and success of these prestigious tournaments?
@Cyn: I think the next step to take is to continue to increase production value on the online formats to show that this is a sustainable model for success. We have to capitalize and continue to build on the momentum we as a community have right now and that means content, content, content. I think NHLGamer in particular is doing this exceedingly well. The more interest we generate, the more professional organizations and larger sponsors will have to take notice which will lead to further legitimacy and funding. With that, we can have even more LAN events which are always seen as the coup de grace for each season or tournament. We’re also going to need to work closely with EA to program in features that cater more to 6s esports in particular. The biggest of which would be an observer client and improved servers. Basically, everyone involved needs to be ready to put more skin in the game if we want this to keep exploding and not stagnate.
@Tougie24: More important than the destination for competitive sixes is how we get there. Everyone wants more high profile LAN events, larger prize pools, etc. But we're not going to get there unless the community works together as a whole. It doesn't matter who you are, what your role is, what league you're in, etc. Do your part. Whether that's just maintaining a good public image, sharing and promoting stuff on social media, or helping with the production of the league you're in. It all adds up and pushes us forward as a group. Something as simple as sending in a picture to make the presentation look that much more appealing goes a long way. Like I said, it doesn't matter what your role is, no matter how big or how small your contribution, everyone needs to work together to push this thing forward.
@f5penguin: First and foremost, we need more buy-in from NHL, the game, the sport, and we need more buy-in from the sponsors. You look at leagues like NBA 2K, and there's a real life crossover happening that is not happening at the scale that it needs to happen here. I think organizations are taking the safe approach by doing 1v1 tournaments, or by bringing it one player to play with a streamer that runs the stream and that's the right move.
I think we need a spectator mode. We need the ability to not allow people to skip and press “A” We need better camera angles. We need a replay functionality. We need belief in the system and it's the chicken before the egg. There's no true proven ROI for NHL. It's the fourth major sport in the United States, so I totally understand the reason it's not there yet. Some teams are taking risks, and it's a catch 22, but somebody has to start doing it. Thankfully, we have amazing organizations like the Washington Capitals doing the Caps Gaming Showcase, which is unprecedented, and we wouldn't have seen that had it not been for some of the things that happened last year to bring it to fruition. But we need it on a bigger scale.
We need everybody to buy in and do it, and we know we're seeing inklings of 1v1 here and there. Maybe a little bit of threes, but we need 6’s. Every NHL teams should have a 6v6 team, I stand by that. Maybe not locally, maybe they go and fetch people from around the countries. But they need something, and there has to be a reason to watch it and you can air games during intermissions and you can build hype around the teams. You can have him come to the games, there's so many ways to bring this here. Esports is gonna be a $7 billion industry by the end of next year. Why would you not want to be a part of that?